This year's building surveyors league table is augmented by 37 new entries, most of them small practices with fewer than 15 staff. The firms at the top of the table are familiar names, however, with Chesterton overtaking WS Atkins to reach number one. On paper, WS Atkins appears to have reduced its building surveying contingent by 29 staff, but the acquisition of Lambert Smith Hampton with its 50 building surveying employees makes it 40 staff stronger than Chesterton once again.

The top 10 firms have added 14% more staff between them since 1998, with only three firms slipping down the top 10. Watts and Partners moves down one place to fifth position, and McBains Cooper is down three slots to 10th.

Tuffin Ferraby Taylor has slipped out of the top 10 for the first time in two years. However, director David Tuffin says it has started to recruit again in the past six months. "We're busy across the board," says Tuffin, "and we expect it to continue. I'm always optimistic but now I'm practically bullish." Fees, according to Tuffin, are "fair and reasonable", which could explain why building surveyors generally seem to be taking on more staff than QSs. "Clients are beginning to understand you get what you pay for," he says. So although the firm is not looking to expand, workload is such that it cannot manage with its current staffing levels.

Top 250 consultants